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Carolyn

Sara

Sara and me

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Best book I’ve read recently. Not new. Called Follow the River: A Novel by James Alexander Thom. This one is also based on the history of a woman (married, pregnant) who was captured by the Shawnee, during the early settlement days east of the Ohio River, about 1755. And her eventual escape. I stayed up all hours to keep reading. The book was written from the many journals and writing compiled by her children. Her name: Mary Ingles. And it chronicles her 1000-mile trek in treacherous weather and over uncharted ground. What an amazing woman, and what a story.

Alan Hlad has written quite a novel. From true life. The Long Flight Home. It tells the story based on family history, of the homing pigeons that were used in Britain during WWII that flew back and forth across the English Channel into German-occupied France. It’s a heartwarming story. Heart-wrenching sometimes. War is an awful thing no matter which side you’re on when it comes to how it affects everyday people. You’ll learn a lot about pigeons, but also about love. Great read.

Riveted to Katie Munnick’s novel The Heart Beats in Secret. It begins in Scotland in 1940. A woman, a single mother. A journey across the sea. Then her daughter’s story, and finally the granddaughter’s story, when she inherits her grandmother’s old cottage back in Scotland. Plenty of mother-daughter dysfunction. But it comes right in the end.

Sarah Vallance has written a book about her devastating brain injury. Prognosis: A Memoir of My Brain. What a story. What a saga of her recovery. And how she did it. An open wide sharing of her angst, her anger, her journey. Well worth reading. If you have anyone who has suffered a brain injury, it would be wise reading.

Just love all of Amy Harmon’s books. This one is no exception. Where the Lost Wander: A Novel. A pioneer story of a young woman made a widow on the trail to the west. 1850s. As it was in life, tragedies occur. But there is caring and love too. Loved it.

Read Her Mother’s Hope: Marta’s Legacy Series Book 1 (A Gripping Historical Christian Fiction Family Saga from the 1900s to the 1950s) (Marta’s Legacy) by Francine Rivers. After leaving her childhood home of Switzerland, young Marta Schneider dreams of one day owning a boardinghouse, until marriage and motherhood change her ambitions. Determined to give her family a better life, she vows to raise strong children. But her tough love is often misunderstood, especially by her oldest daughter, Hildemara Rose, creating repercussions that will echo for generations.

Esther Freud’s book The Sea House: A Novel is about a small village on England’s southern coast.  The book is about love found, love lost, love sometimes found again, sometimes not. About how fleeting it can be or seem.

Amor Towles’ book, Rules of Civility: A Novel was quite a read. It’s NYC, 1937. Twenty-five-year-old Katey Kontent [Kon-TENT she iterates to many] is in a Greenwich Village jazz bar when a handsome banker, happens to sit down at the neighboring table. This chance encounter and its startling consequences propel Katey on a year-long journey into the upper echelons of New York society.

Wesley the Owl: The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl by Stacey O’Brien. What an adorable book. True story about Stacey’s 20 years with a feisty but lovable barn owl.

Loved The Wedding Officer: A Novel by Anthony Capella. It takes place in the middle of WWII in Naples. A young British officer, Captain James Gould, is sent to Naples to wade through the zilions of applications from soldiers to marry local Italian women (and presumably take them back to England when the war ends).

Reading behind Bars: A True Story of Literature, Law, and Life as a Prison Librarian by Jill Grunenwald. So interesting. Jill is  young, with a newly minted degree in library science at a time when the economy was very slow. She accepts a position in a minimum security prison in Ohio.

The Walls of Lucca by Steve Physioc. A novel that takes place in between WWI and II about a weary Italian soldier.

The Hired Man by Aminatta Forna. A novel about Croatia in the aftermath of their more recent wars.

A Column of Fire: A Novel by Ken Follett. It takes place in the 1500s, in England, and has everything to do with the war between the Catholics and the Protestants, that raged throughout Europe during that time, culminating in the Spanish Inquisition.

Having read all of Kristin Hannah’s books, I knew I’d read her latest too: Between Sisters: A Novel.  Two sisters, raised by the same mother but different fathers. At a young age a rift occurs and the sisters go their own way.

Just finished Matt McCarthy’s book The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly: A Physician’s First Year. It tells the true life story of his first year as an intern at a New York hospital.

Also read Karen Harper’s book The Royal Nanny: A Novel. The time frame is 1890s onward, at Sandringham, when Charlotte Bill (a real person) was hired by the Duke and Duchess of York, to care for their children.

Also read Roger Swindell’s Mendelevski’s Box. It’s an historical novel about the aftermath of WWII in impoverished Amsterdam.

Also read a very quirky non-fiction book: The Perfect Gentleman: The remarkable life of Dr. James Miranda Barry by June Rose. This is a biography about a person who lived in the mid-1800s. He was a surgeon; graduated from Edinburgh Medical School at the age of 14. Joined the British Army as a medical officer then sent off to South Africa and many other tropical outposts during his career.

The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley. The premise of this book is different . . . a woman writer goes to Scotland to connect with her distant heritage.

Another great read, The Island of Sea Women: A Novel by Lisa See. It’s about Jeju Island off the coast of Korea where the island as a whole is matriarchal because the women were trained from a young age to deep dive, free dive, for mollusks. These women were the breadwinners. Husbands stayed home and cared for the babies. The island is real. The history is real.

Radio Girls by Sarah-Jane Stratford. A novel about the early days of radio in London.

A Well-Behaved Woman: A Novel of the Vanderbilts by Therese Anne Fowler. This book is a novel, but based on the life of Alva Smith Vanderbilt (Belmont). Her family was nearly destitute (and faking it) when a marriage was proposed for her with William Vanderbilt.  You see the inner life of Alva – her day to day busy work, charity work, visiting for afternoon tea, the undercurrent of society’s morals.

Also read In Falling Snow: A Novel, by Mary-Rose McColl. From amazon: Iris, a young Australian nurse, travels to France during World War I to bring home her fifteen-year-old brother, who ran away to enlist. 

Also couldn’t put down The Secret Wife by Gill Paul. A long story that begins in war-torn Russia. Cavalry officer Dmitri falls head over heels in love with one of the daughters of Tzar Nicholas.

Uncommon Woman. A book about Colonial America, but really the western frontier at that time, which is in western Pennsylvania.

One of my book clubs had us read Louise Penny’s novel, A Rule Against Murder (Chief Inspector Gamache Novel). The book takes place at a lovely inn in Canada and Chief Inspector Gamache (he is quite a character – along with his wife – are vacationing there) when a murder occurs.

My Name Is Resolute by Nancy Turner. She’s the author of another book of some renown, These is my Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901 (P.S.). Resolute is what I’m discussing here. It’s fiction, but based some on a true story. Resolute, as a young girl from a privileged life on a plantation in Jamaica, was taken captive by slavers, eventually ended up in Colonial America. This book is the story of her life. The people she met, the men in her life, her children, and always about her indefatigable energy for life. Always hoping to return to Jamaica.

The Shepherd’s Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape by James Rebanks. This is a memoir, so a true story, of a young man growing up in the Lake District of Northern England, the son of a farming family, who sabotages everything in his being regarding going to school and leaves as soon as he is able (probably about 8th grade, I’d guess). And becomes a shepherd. And at night, he read literature that he accumulated from his grandfather. And then what happens to him as he grows up. Riveting.

Moloka’i: A Novel by Alan Brennert. A riveting book about the early days of Hansen’s Disease (leprosy) in Hawaii, and the stigma attached to the victims AND their families. It chronicles the story of a young woman, diagnosed almost as a child, and ostracized from her family, subsequently learning to live alone and remote.

House by the Fjord by Rosalind Laker. What a darling story. From amazon: A touching and atmospheric love story – When Anna Harvik travels to Norway in 1946 in order to visit the family of her late husband, the country is only just recovering from five cruel years of Nazi occupation.

Running Blind (Jack Reacher) by Lee Child. A Jack Reacher mystery. From amazon: Across the country, women are being murdered, victims of a disciplined and clever killer who leaves no trace evidence, no fatal wounds, no signs of struggle, and no clues to an apparent motive. They are, truly, perfect crimes. Until Jack Reacher gets in the middle of it. A page turner, as are all of the Jack Reacher stories.

Say Goodbye for Now by Catherine Ryan Hyde. This story, which takes place in a kind of Texas backwater, sets a town into an angry mess when two young boys, one white, one black, become friends, something most folks don’t like. At all. There’s a dog involved, the father of the black boy, the father of the white boy plus a woman who lives in the town and does her best to avoid people altogether. But they all get fused. Wonderful story.

Summer at Tiffany by Marjorie Hart. A sweet book, true story, of the author and her friend, during one summer in the midst of their college years, going by train to NYC and ultimately getting a job of Tiffany’s.  Cute read.

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann. You might think what a stretch – what does an Indian (Native American) tribe have to do with the FBI. Read and you’ll find out. This is back in time, 50s I think, and a number of murders have taken place on the Osage Reservation. A wake up call, even for today.

Oh wow. Just finished reading David Guterson’s book, East of the Mountains. You know this author from his most well known book, Snow Falling on Cedars. I loved the Cedars book when I read it years ago, and assumed I’d like this other book (not new) as well. Have you learned to trust my judgment when I tell you, you HAVE to read a book? If I tell you the story line, I can already hear you thinking . . . oh no, I don’t want to read this kind of a book. Please trust me. You’ll come away from it being glad you did.

A fabulous read – Catherine Ryan Hyde’s newest book, Have You Seen Luis Velez? Raymond, a youngster, an older teenager, who  lacks self-confidence and feels like an odd duck sometimes, reluctantly (at first) befriends an elderly woman in the apartment building where he lives with his mother and step-father. Sweet story.

Magic Hour: A Novel

Excellent Women

Pachinko (National Book Award Finalist) by Min Jin Lee

An American Marriage (Oprah’s Book Club): A Novel by Tayari Jones.

Recently finished Sally Field’s memoir (autobiography) called In Pieces.

If you want grit, well, read Kristen Hannah’s newest book, The Great Alone: A Novel.

You’ve got to read Catherine Ryan Hyde’s book – Take Me With You. What a story.  From Amazon’s description: August Shroeder, a burned-out teacher, has been sober since his nineteen-year-old son died. Every year he’s spent the summer on the road, but making it to Yellowstone this year means everything. The plan had been to travel there with his son, but now August is making the trip with Philip’s ashes instead. An unexpected twist of fate lands August with two extra passengers for his journey, two half-orphans with nowhere else to go. What none of them could have known was how transformative both the trip—and the bonds that develop between them—would prove, driving each to create a new destiny together. Have a tissue handy at the end. It’s such a charming, sweet story. You’ll fall in love with the young boys, and fall in love with them again 10 years later.

The Last Letter from Your Lover: A Novel by JoJo Moyes.

Mark of the Lion : A Voice in the Wind, An Echo in the Darkness, As Sure As the Dawn (Vol 1-3) by Francine Rivers.

Flight of the Sparrow: A Novel of Early America

Answer As a Man

Celeste Ng Little Fires Everywhere.

The Rent Collector by Camron Wright.

C.J. Box’s book The Disappeared (A Joe Pickett Novel).

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng.

The Boston Girl: A Novel by Anita Diamant.

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers.

The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen.

Leaving Blythe River: A Novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde.

The Girl with Seven Names by Hyanseo Lee.

The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian.

The Good Widow: A Novel by Lisa Steinke.

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes.

How It All Began: A Novel by Penelope Lively.

 

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small, old and some very dented engraved silver plated tea spoons that belonged to my mother-in-law, and I use them to taste my food as I'm cooking.

Scroll down to the bottom to view my Blogroll

Posted in Desserts, on June 6th, 2020.

straw_sauce_ricotta_cream

That’s a glass espresso cup. Tiny. And an espresso spoon. To make a tiny dessert.

As businesses have opened up here in California (mostly) I’m still sheltering in place. Wishing all of this was over with, so we can go about our lives again. Alas, for people my age, at least here in California, it’s not happening yet. I’m still at home, preparing all of my own food (I haven’t done any take-out so far). There’s no shortage of recipes to try, but sometimes there aren’t the right ingredients to make things happen. My next door neighbor is still buying lots of food for me, although I’m now buying from some local grocery stores that deliver.

The other day a little memory rose up to the surface, as they are wont to do sometimes, and I remembered waaaay back in the day when I was still working. Kathleen, who worked for us, was going to Weight Watchers at the time, and came into the office and said oh, taste this . . . it was something creamy, thick, white. Eileen tasted it and said eww….. I tasted it and said wow, that’s delicious. What is it? She said pastry cream. What? Really, on Weight Watchers? She said yes. I wanted the recipe. She laughed a little, I think, and said you won’t believe what it is? Ricotta cheese, a smidgen of yogurt with some sweetener in it (probably Sweet ‘n Low, which was about all that was available back then). And maybe there was a tiny splash of vanilla in it. Not sure that I remember if Kathleen used it, but I do add vanilla when I make it.

My business partner and I sold the ad agency back in 1995, but I’ve stayed in touch with some of the employees, Kathleen included. I emailed her the other day and asked her if she remembered that day. Of course she did! And she recalled that the following week after that epiphany in the office, she went to her Weight Watchers meeting, and raved about the “pastry cream” she’d been snacking on a few times a day, the leader said WHAT? You’re only supposed to have a bite or two, like on a strawberry, or spread on an apple slice. OH. We all laughed about that.

ricotta_cheese_TJsBut I’ve not forgotten that little sinful pleasure, and had my neighbor buy me a tub of ricotta from Trader Joe’s. I buy full fat because I’m not pleased with what I’ve read about how dairy products are stripped of the fat – maybe not a healthy food to eat. So anyway, I opened the tub, sprinkled on some monkfruit sweetener, added a small dollop of yogurt, and a couple of drops of vanilla, and stirred it up well. I prefer to do this several hours ahead, but hey, if you’re in a hurry, go right ahead. The sweetener or sugar just doesn’t dissolve immediately in ricotta cheese. Over the years, I’m sure I’ve made this “ricotta cream” at least 20 times. (Thank you, Kathleen!) The original recipe suggests you whiz this up in the food processor until the ricotta is silky smooth. I don’t bother – the stirred version is fine with me.

Meanwhile, my neighbor phoned me one day and said the local grocery store had big boxes of fresh strawberries for $1.99. Did I want one? Wow, that’s a lot of strawberries for me to eat, but I said “sure.” I ate a few, then thought about making a fresh strawberry sauce, using artificial sweetener. I’m really trying to limit the sugar I eat. This may be the last “dessert” you’ll see here for awhile as I’m telling myself I can’t be baking with abandon as I stay here at home. I want to bake. No. Need to stop!

straw_sauceSo I made a fresh strawberry sauce with fresh, sliced strawberries, some monkfruit sweetener, and a little bit of fresh lemon juice. It took little or no time to make. I read a bunch of different recipes, and one intrigued me stating that sliced berries will result in a vibrant, clear sauce. If you mash them, it muddies the waters, so to speak. I liked the result, and it’s low in calorie to boot. I also added a tiny, tiny splash of dark balsamic vinegar to the mixture once it cooled. It gives a different flavor profile – you can’t quite figure out what’s in it. Those little storage containers above are now in the freezer. The pound of berries made a lot of sauce, which won’t keep all that long because it’s not sweetened with sugar. It tastes like a thin jam, but without real sugar it will begin to spoil after 4-5 days.

straw_sauce_ice_creamUSING: Well, when I’m desperate for a snack, my spoon goes into that tub of ricotta cheese. I eat maybe 2 bites straight, just like Kathleen taught me back in the 90s [cheeky grin]. If I’m wanting something more fancy, I do have some vanilla ice cream on hand that I’m trying very hard not to eat but rarely, and the other night I scooped some into a little bitty glass dish and spooned some berries on top, with a few walnuts. A tasty dessert. Or I spoon some of the ricotta cream into a little espresso cup and add the berries on top (pictured at top).

What’s GOOD: a great little snack (moderation, remember?) and makes a nice little bitty dessert if you’re hankering for something not too sinful. Strawberries are at peak season here in California at the moment. A perfect time to make this. And freeze some of it for a winter’s day.

What’s NOT: only if you don’t like the texture/consistency of ricotta cheese. It is an odd, kind of grainy texture, perhaps an acquired taste for some, but I’m fine with it. Obviously Eileen wasn’t! Chuckle.

RICOTTA CREAM: printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

STRAWBERRY SAUCE: printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Fresh Ricotta Cream

Recipe By: From my friend Kathleen H, from a Weight Watcher’s class, c. 1990
Serving Size: 8

1 pound ricotta cheese
3 tablespoons plain yogurt
3 tablespoons sugar — or artificial sweetener
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1. Blend ingredients in food processor with metal blade until satiny smooth. Refrigerate in tightly covered container. Will keep for at least a week.
2. If you’re lazy, you can just stir into the ricotta the yogurt, sugar and vanilla and mix well. The sugar takes awhile to dissolve, so it’s best if made a few hours ahead.
SERVING: Serve as a kind of small-portion pudding, top with some sliced fruit, a fruit sauce, or even chocolate syrup. Put between two cookies, or use between thin layers of cake.
Per Serving: 108 Calories; 6g Fat (49.7% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 9g Carbohydrate; 0g Dietary Fiber; 29mg Cholesterol; 65mg Sodium; 5g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 124mg Calcium; trace Iron; 134mg Potassium; 93mg Phosphorus.

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* Exported from MasterCook *

Fresh Strawberry Sauce

Recipe By: My own recipe.
Serving Size: 12

1 pound fresh strawberries — cleaned, dried with paper towels, stemmed, then sliced thickly
2 tablespoons sugar — or monkfruit sweetener, or other artificial sweetener
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar — or more to taste

1. Place sliced strawberries into a saucepan. Add sugar and lemon juice. The amount of sugar needed will depend on how ripe the berries are – riper the berries = less sugar.
2. Bring mixture to a simmer and stir occasionally as it cooks and the strawberries soften, about 4-8 minutes. Do not overcook or the berries will soften to a mush. That’s not the texture you want – just cooked through, barely. Taste for more sugar or lemon juice, as needed.
3. Set aside to cool.
4. Add balsamic vinegar and stir well. You do not want the balsamic vinegar flavor to predominate – it’s there just to add a nuance. Allow to cool completely and chill. Freezes well.
Per Serving: 21 Calories; trace Fat (4.6% calories from fat); trace Protein; 5g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 1mg Sodium; 4g Total Sugars; 0mcg Vitamin D; 6mg Calcium; trace Iron; 61mg Potassium; 9mg Phosphorus.

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  1. Kathleen Heckathorn

    said on June 6th, 2020:

    Carolyn, this story brings back so many great memories of AdMasters and the wonderful life-long friends that I made there. I’m so glad that we still stay in touch! Stay safe, dear friend. I’m looking forward to the day when I can give you a hug in person.

    Me too, Kathleen. I can’t quite believe it’s been 25 years since I retired. I think I was just about to turn 55 when we sold the business. It was hard saying goodbye to everyone, but it was the right time to sell, for sure! . . . carolyn

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